Officer Alex suggests people stop speeding if they want him at work on other problems.
“It’s such bullshit,” said Young Chattanoogan #1.
He was referring to a speed-reduction initiative taking place on Highway 153 a week ago. And by “speed-reduction initiative,” I mean a carpet-bombing of cops all over a local stretch of state highway that resembled a sea of white paint and polyester floating in an ocean of blue lights and asphalt. (I admit…it was pretty strong.)
“Revenue generation,” the Young Chattanoogan said. I drew in a breath, held it a moment, and let it out quickly, letting my shoulders slump along with my lungs.
I love how people call it that: “Revenue Generation.” I think that there truly are people on this Earth that think cops (my co-workers, at least) make a buck off of their tickets.
Imagine my frustration (after going eight years without so much as a pay plan,) on hearing that I’m writing tickets for the purpose of generating revenue. Let me write this down here in the sweet, sweet pages of The Pulse: I’m not making money when I stop someone traveling 80 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. I’m just slowing some guy down, and going to another place to shoot radar again. My pay remains static whether I write 20 tickets or zero tickets. (Read that twice, if you will.) I’m a salaried employee, baby, not a bounty hunter. Cops write tickets, not Boba Fett.
You want the truth? I write tickets because 28 people died in this town in traffic crashes last year, and no matter how much less plausible this seems than “making money,” it’s actually the case. Excessive speed is the leading cause of car crashes, and as it turns out, the taxi drivers and civil rights activists of this town aren’t doing much about it, so it’s left to the local P.D. to enforce the traffic laws of this great state.
That’s right: Cops write tickets to slow people down, and with a bit of luck change their behavior. Does it cost someone money if they get one? Sure. Tons. Does Officer Teach get that money? Nope. Officer Teach is just paid by seeing one less lady or gentlemen impaled by a steering column, alongside a cell phone on the floorboard of the smoking car that wrecked because they were Facebooking while doing 75 in a 55. “That” is what makes me the bad guy, and it’s a label I’m content to live with. Seeing people alive and angry will always, every time, be preferable to a cop than seeing their hair stuck in the spider-webbed cracks of a windshield as the temperature of their blood equalizes with the temperature of the air surrounding them. (Is the visual “icky” for you? Well, bless your heart. Welcome to my world.)
For the enforcement action described above, there were over 30 cops involved. While that one day of work over two shifts isn’t going to be a permanent fix (duh), I noticed that people were talking about it the next day. And the day after. And the day after that.
Those were the “revenue generation” discussions, the “people are being killed in the inner city, why are cops writing tickets?” discussions. And through all these talks, two things were happening they didn’t even realize: That one day’s work was carried over into a week’s worth of discussions, and people were slowing down in the area of 153 they saw littered with cops the week before. In other words…people were slowing down, if for just a little while.
Were lives saved? Maybe not. Was awareness of speeding brought to mind for the thousands of people that traveled that road on a Friday? Yup. And sometimes that’s the only success we can hope for.
Not one shooting took place while a detective worked a case where a widow was bilked of thousands of dollars by a man who promised to re-roof her house (if she paid in advance in cash), although he “should have been dealing with the gang problem.”
No gangsters were laid low because the cop working your wreck (because you ass-ended the car ahead of you) was writing the crash report your insurance company needed instead of standing in the middle of Dodson Avenue looking for “gang members.” Yet two teenagers were killed in separate crashes in this county on the days before and after that initiative. Seeing the big picture yet?
There are shootings, yes, but there are also wrecks. Children being abused. And husbands and wives beating each other. Cops can’t stop answering any of those calls, so if you’d really like to help with the gang problem? How about slowing down and acknowledging that as many or more people are killed in car crashes in this city than by “the gangs?”
It’s math, not speculation. Now press hard, because there are three carbons there. Thanks. Or slow down...whichever.